Growers support Minister’s call to ACCC against supermarket power

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd November 2011

The major horticulture body Growcom, which represents fruit and vegetable growers in Queensland, today welcomed comments from Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research urging the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to take action to limit the powers of the two major supermarkets, Woolworths and Coles.

Growcom CEO Alex Livingstone said that growers had reported to him similar stories as had been told to Senator Carr by suppliers further up the chain.

“The supermarkets have disproportionate power in managing contracts and sales in such a way that suppliers are meeting more and more of the costs,” said Mr Livingstone.

“We echo the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and raise concerns about the treatment of Australian growers and the issues this raises about the long-term reliability of the food supply for Australians.”

Mr Livingstone said Growcom would warmly welcome action by the ACCC to investigate competition in this area and is hoping that the Minister’s comments will lead to greater scrutiny of the supply chain.

Mr Livingstone backed Senator Carr’s calls to examine the system in the UK for tackling the power of major supermarkets. However, he hoped progress could be made more quickly in Australia. The UK had introduced a stricter Groceries Supply Code of Practice in February last year, but UK suppliers are still waiting for a Grocery Code Adjudicator to actively enforce that Code.

Mr Livingstone said Australia has a voluntary Produce and Grocery Code and an Ombudsman to deal with relationships between horticulture suppliers and buyers but this still was not providing adequate redress for suppliers.

Senator Carr made his comments during a meeting with Australian Food and Grocery Council representatives in Canberra today. However, the Australian government has not made any special legislative moves to date in relation to curbing supermarket powers. Australian Food News has recently reported the warnings made by the new ACCC Chairman Rod Sims, that the ACCC is willing to investigate potential areas of abuse by Australia’s major supermarkets.